Unlike most political issues, immigration is not really a right vs. left or Republican vs. Democrat issue. Instead, immigration is better understood as an elite vs. public issue where the elite in our society tends to support higher levels of immigration and where the general public tends to support lower levels of immigration. For politicians of all political stripes, the question on immigration is whether they will side with the elite or the public.
The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations confirmed this divide years ago in a survey that contrasted the views of elites and the general public on a wide range of issues, including defense spending, foreign aid, Islamic fundamentalism, promoting and defending human rights, strengthening the United Nations, treaties to reduce global warming, and, of course, immigration. The “elite” group responding to the survey was made up of nearly 400 opinion leaders, including members of Congress, the White House, business executives, union leaders, journalists, academics, leaders of church groups and leaders of major interest groups. The “public” group was made up average Americans.
The poll results indicated that there is no other foreign policy-related issue on which the American people and their leaders disagree more profoundly than immigration.
When asked whether legal immigration should be reduced, kept the same, or increased, 55 percent of the public said it should be reduced, and 27 percent said it should remain the same. In contrast, only 18 percent of opinion leaders said it should be reduced and 60 percent said it should remain the same.Additionally, 70 percent of the public said that reducing illegal immigration should be a “very important” foreign policy goal of the United States, compared to only 22 percent of elites. When asked to rank the biggest foreign policy problems, the public ranked illegal immigration sixth, while elites ranked it 26th.
Since it first published that report, the group seems to have stopped comparing elite and public views on immigration. Still, there is very little evidence that voters support increases in legal immigration, which is the main goal of the elite interests pushing changes to immigration policy. A new Reuters poll found that only 17 percent thought more legal immigrants should be allowed to come to the United States.
How does this divide show itself on Capitol Hill? On one side, there are bipartisan bills, bipartisan “gangs” of legislators and massive bags of cash from lobbyists; on the other side, there are bipartisan phone calls from angry constituents. The supposedly strange bedfellows of the immigration debate really aren’t so strange. There is a reason President George W. Bush and President Obama are virtually identical on immigration, and it is the same reason both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal editorial boards support amnesty, the same reason Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) are “BFFs” on immigration, the same reason George Soros and the Koch brothers have similar views on immigration: The elites in our society are overwhelmingly on the side of open borders because they are the ones who benefit most from mass immigration and are most able to avoid the costs associated with such policies. (How many “unaccompanied minors” will Sidwell Friends School be taking in?) To this extent, the bipartisan nature of immigration legislation is not all that relevant or compelling.
As to the lobbying, the Sunlight Foundation found that after comprehensive immigration bills failed under George W. Bush’s watch, more than $1.5 billion was spent by interest groups lobbying for increases in immigration and amnesty between 2008 and 2012. This figure does not include money spent lobbying during last year’s big debate. Similarly, CQ Press analyzed two pieces of legislation — the DREAM Act and the Legal Workforce Act — and found that open-border-oriented groups spend much, much more money lobbying than groups seeking a more rational immigration policy. As explained by their charts, less than one-third of 1 percent of lobbying money spent on these immigration bills was by pro-enforcement groups.
Last year, officials representing over 100 corporate interests issued a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) demanding the legalization of 11 million illegal aliens and increased legal immigration through the creation of new visa programs. The companies include well-known names like Hallmark Cards, Disney, CVS, the Cheesecake Factory, American Airlines, Marriott, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, AT&T, UPS, Rubbermaid and McCormick spices — just to name a few examples.
Just last week, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — who promotes higher levels of immigration through his FWD.us organization with misleading ads — met with pro-amnesty Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to push more immigration. Facebook’s value just topped $200 billion.
The big money has always been on the side of amnesty and increased immigration.